Wallenpaupack Area hosts informative nutrition program

When we think of the dangers of sports, typically images in our head are of an athlete going down on the field, writhing in pain.

Or maybe Vinka Bogataj careening off a ski jump in 1970 and going down in history as “The Agony of Defeat” guy from ABC’s Wide World of Sports.

We don’t think of a 17 year old baseball player that committed suicide battling the depression he felt after stopping using anabolic steroids, but that’s exactly what happened to Taylor Hooton of Plano, Texas in 2003.

Mission On

Since his untimely death, The Taylor Hooton Foundation has worked to educated athletes, particularly high school athletes, about the dangers of performance enhancing substances.

The foundation’s Education Program Manager, Tavis Piattoly, is the Sports Dietician and Nutrition Consultant for Tulane University and a former Sports Dietician for the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.

He recently spoke at Wallenpaupack Area about the adverse effects of dietary supplements and how to enhance athletic performance by developing good nutritional habits.

Supplements, of which Piattoly pointed out there are 50-80 thousand types on the market, rank among the top ten abused substance by teens.

Heroin, hallucinogens, inhalants, methamphetamines, and psychotherapeutic drugs rank, tenth through sixth with anabolic steroids coming in at number five.

Believe it or not, protein supplements ranked the highest with 9.4 million students between middle school and high school having admitted to using them.

That’s more than those that stated they used the second most abused substance, alcohol, but ahead of marijuana, which was fourth, ranked other muscle enhancing supplements.

“Protein is not the key,” Piattoly warned, “Other things are needed too and can be found in food.”

Shady Substances

Piattoly cited the accessibility and the lack of regulations of supplements is a major factor in why they are abused.

He further noted that manufacturers deliberately hide the ingredients by claiming “proprietary rights” and that in most cases, supplement store sales people will suggest a product to a customer without discussing goals, medical problems, and other issues that may cause the supplement to not work, or even harm the user.

“Always ask someone knowledgeable about supplements before taking them,” Piattoly said.

“Always read the label. Some supplements contain banned substances and ask if even taking them is necessary. About 18-25 percent of the supplements on the market have been spiked with steroids. People are doping and they don’t even know it.”

He did defend supplements if used correctly, saying: “Creatine can cause renal failure if used incorrectly but poses no side effects when used properly.

Supplements marked with the “NSF” (National Sanitation Foundation) label are safe and it means they have been tested to ensure no banned substances are in the product.”

The Secret Weapon

Piattoly stated that nutrition is the missing link to good athletic performance.

Most students are calorie deficient by the time of day rolls around for them to go to practice or hit the weight room. He advocates for student athletes eating every three to four hours to keep them energized through class and into after school activities.

“You can’t skip breakfast, but it can be fast. A smoothie or peanut butter and jelly sandwich can be enough if you are also eating something four or five other times a day,” he said.

Carbohydrates, fruits and vegetables, and protein are all important, Piattoly noted, and finding the balance for what athletes want to achieve is the goal.

While professionals might need to stick to a strict dietary regimen, he feels that if a student follows a plan 85 percent of the time and then eats what they want to the other 15 percent of the time, a good chord has been struck.

“There’s no perfect snack,” he admitted. “Eat what you like as long as it’s nutritious.”

Piattoly also stressed the importance of post-workout nutrition. Chocolate milk (something soccer coach Scott Bonagura always trumpets) is better than any sports drink as it contains sugars that the body needs as well as protein.

Sports drinks that have electrolytes are good during the game, but only beneficial if the athlete has been working out for an hour or more. Energy drinks, he warned, should be avoided by everyone.

“We know they can be extremely harmful but don’t yet know why,” Piattoly said. “We know it’s not the caffeine but something in the combination of ingredients causes blood vessels to constrict.”

Over & Out

Some keys to safe supplement use include using only certified products according to their directions and as a part of a plan that also includes solid nutrition.

Piattoly suggests student athletes and their parents as well as coaches and trainers use resources such as those provided by the College and Professional Sports Dieticians Association’s Eat2Win mobile app.

The app allows users to input personal information and goals and it provides food suggestions ranging from home cooked meals to major restaurant chain entrées.